Why aren’t government strategies tackling youth unemployment working?  Emily gives her thoughts on the subject.

A recent article in Personnel Today deals with a group of MPs concerned that the “youth contract” put in place by the government is not enough to tackle youth unemployment.  The contract is trying to combat rising youth unemployment by subsidising training and apprenticeship schemes, increasing job centre support, and creating a new programme for those under 18 not in school or employment.

These measures can be criticized in their own right; as the article points out, many companies are confused about the ways in which apprenticeship incentives work or believe they will be too much hassle and, if the rumours are to believed, Job Centres are just trying to place people in any possible employment instead of matching them to appropriate jobs and considering their future careers.

But what this article and, presumably, these MPs are glazing over is that the youth contract does nothing to help recent graduates.  It’s easy to see the reasoning behind this; anyone would assume that because graduates have the skills required to get a degree that they are far better equipped to get a job than a 16-year-old school-leaver.  Yet as true as this may be, when there are so few opportunities for graduates that only the best can get graduate-level jobs, it leaves the rest working at jobs that don’t require a degree and young people don’t want to spend three or more years of their life and thousands of pounds on an education only to wind up in the same job they could have had when they were 18.

Beyond the frustrations this causes for recent graduates, this takes jobs that don’t require higher education away from the very young jobseekers that the youth contract is targeting, and means that the government has to pour more money into subsidising training schemes for them. With the rising cost of tuition, many graduates are now left burdened with unthinkable student loan debt but are unable to find the type of job that would pay it off.  They therefore don’t have any spending money and that fails to support the economy, making the crisis worse.  It’s a vicious cycle.

There is no denying there are less jobs than there used to be for graduates, but just like the government is focusing on programmes that help school leavers develop the skills for employment, there needs to be a focus placed on helping graduates compete for jobs in an ever-tougher job market.  I think it’s a stretch to say that if graduates could be better-prepared for the job market that it would solve the rest of the youth unemployment crises, but it certainly would help!

2 thoughts on “Tackling youth unemployment across the board

  1. Sounds like what you are saying is that we should be aiming for a growth strategy on Graduate level jobs, and the rest should fall into place. I agree that there will never be enough jobs for everyone… and taking a step back I think we need to realise that as a starting point. That’s not top say we don’t try… and what graduates can be equipped for is starting their own businesses, so that 1) puts their skills to use and 2) they create jobs for the people who do not attend University.

    This always points to back to a UK wide industrial strategy, where the measures you discuss are part of a plan that helps the Uk… and not ‘silo-ing’ the problem as ‘youth unemployment’, which, in my opinion is the by-product and indeed not the problem.

    Ps, I really like this blog.


  2. Thanks Neil – always nice to get some positive feedback!

    While I obviously think there should be a growth-strategy for graduate-level jobs, but you’re right that there will never be enough jobs to go around. That’s why programmes like Eyes Wide Opened are important in supporting graduates (or people at any stage in their career) who need a push in the direction of making a change or, in some cases, starting their own businesses. But obviously all the graduates that don’t get jobs can’t just start their own businesses, so there really needs to be an effort by government, universities, and social enterprises to give people the support they need to make the right choices when they finish university whether that be going into grad schemes, starting their own businesses, or possibly even reentering education.

    Totally agree with you about ‘youth unemployment’ though – it’s a symptom of bad economic policy and not a problem of its own!


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